Reviews: Look at me! Reading contemporary scifi!
My summer goal in action! Pity my other summer goals aren’t quite going as well. Like blogging. And learning German. Ah well, gotta leave some room for improvement, right? (To be fair, I did buy a German text book and was lent a few children’s books from my German friend. So, maybe this will be a thing?)
But here we go, a slew of quick reviews.
Robert W. Boyczuk Nexus: Ascension (2010)
What I am about to say may totally be taken as a backhanded compliment, but it was not meant that way at all. What I found truly amazing about this book was that even though I didn’t care about any of the characters, I kept reading it. I was that engrossed by the narrative. And I’m not sure I was supposed to care about them all anyway. (But really, unless I care about a character it is hard for me to get through books. That’s why I didn’t like The Great Gatsby.) Back to the point, the book had a really cool premise. The crew of a cyrofrozen ship returns to their home planet after 30 years to find that it has been entirely wiped out by a plague. The book then focusing on these 6 or so characters as they try to survive and figure out what happened. Conspiracy theories run rampant as some of them believe the plague was designed by a neighboring empire when the planet refused to join them willingly. The book has a really cool premise that really takes advantage of relative space travel (which I talk about here) and is honestly one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read in a while. (Also look at the gorgeous cover!) Just check out these opening lines:
“The ship drove towards its hellish perihelion.
On its cramped flight deck spun a simulacrum of a binary system: two white dwarfs locked in a vicious gravitational embrace, a combined oribital period of two minutes, twenty-five seconds. Their luminocity has been muted to make them bearable. Even so, the display cast double shadows throughout the cabin that slashed across walls and deck like whirling blades.
Too late, he thought from the confines of his narrow cell. Too late to change anything.
Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall Night of the Living Trekkies (2010)
This book was beautiful. It was the literary equivalent of the cheesy B sci fi/horror from the 50s and 60s and Syfy original movies I cannot get enough of. Zombies? Check. Star Trek and Star Wars references? Check. Gratuitous red shirt jokes? Check. What morecould you want? Also, look at that cover, it is epic. But in all seriousness, this was one of the funniest science fiction books I’ve read since Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And it was filled with pure nerdy fun. Now don’t expect this to be quality literature. It is just a great quick summer read. I read it in about a day because I just couldn’t stop, and honestly it was a perfect way to spend a day. Like a bad movie marathon, you leave it wanting to laugh about it with friends. I’ve already recommended it to about 5 different people because I need more people in my life who know it. This is making it onto my list of all time favorites just for sheer ridiculousness. Syfy, please adapt this as an original movie ASAP. It was made for that. No one else can do it true cheesy justice.
Robert Charles Wilson, Spin (2006)
Holy shit balls. This book was amazing. The concept proved to be particularly unsettling for me. Basically the premis is one night the stars/moon/etc just go out. Are gone. They later learn that they are all still there, but that there is a membrane around the Earth that is blocking them out. Oh and one second on Earth is roughly equal to 3 years out side of the membrane. The book then deals with the politics and implications of this and other actions that the characters take as they try to understand what they’re calling “the Spin,” the Hypotheticals who constructed it, and how to take control of their situation. The book has a really cool section about their now potential capability to terraform Mars seeing as millions of years outside of the membrane is just a year in their name. I think this was most unsettling for me because this year I’ve become very comfortable with the stars, and am now able to identify a lot of them and they help reassure me of where I am. It is like a map I now really understand. So the idea of all of that disappearing is scary. But this book won the Hugo for best novel when it was released and is one of my favorite books of all time. And Wilson makes Heinlein/Bradbury/Wells references throughout the book, how could I not just love it? You must read this at some point. It truly is an epic book. Really well written, a great cast of characters, and awesome premise. I now want to read everything he has written.
Next on the reading list? John Scalzi’s Redshirts (impression so far? HILARIOUS), Ben Bova’s Saturn, Vacuum Diagramms by Stephen Baxter and Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier (ok not science fiction, but you know what? Bite me.)